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Lung Disease & Respiratory Health Center

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Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension

Treatment

Your treatment will depend on your own needs. Ask your doctor what your options are, and to explain the medicines he recommends and what you can expect from them. Your doctor will usually treat your pulmonary hypertension by prescribing drugs that open up, or dilate, narrowed blood vessels. They may be pills, medicines you breathe in, or drugs that are given through an IV or under your skin. Oxygen helps some people with shortness of breath. It can also help people live longer who have pulmonary hypertension because of chronic lung disease.

Sometimes doctors prescribe blood thinners or medications called calcium channel blockers that relax the walls of blood vessels. These medications aren't for everyone; they only work for a small number of people with pulmonary hypertension. Your doctor will know if you're a candidate for them.

In severe cases, or if drugs don't help, other options include a lung transplant or a procedure called atrial septostomy. A surgeon creates an opening between the right and left sides of the heart. This surgery can have serious side effects.

If another condition is causing your pulmonary hypertension, then your doctor will treat that condition as well. For example, if emphysema is causing the problem, you'll need to treat that in order to improve your pulmonary arterial hypertension.

Taking Care of Yourself

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to stay active, even if you have shortness of breath. Regular exercise, like taking a walk, will help you breathe better and live better. Talk to your doctor first to find out what kind of exercise is best for you, and how much you should do. Some people may need to use oxygen when they exercise.

Get plenty of rest, too. Pulmonary hypertension makes you tired, so get a good night's sleep and take naps when you need to.

Just like anyone else, it's good for you to eat a healthy diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. That's important for your overall health.

What to Expect

A lot depends on what's causing your pulmonary hypertension. Treating an underlying condition will help you feel better. There's no cure for pulmonary hypertension, but the earlier it's diagnosed, the easier it is to live with.

If you have idiopathic pulmonary hypertension -- the kind where doctors can't find a cause -- your symptoms will get worse over time. But treatment can slow down the progress of the disease and help you live longer.

Remember that each person is different, and there are good treatments available. Work with your doctor to find what's right for you.

Where to Find More Information

The Pulmonary Hypertension Association offers in-depth information on everything from medications to tips on making daily tasks easier. It also has an active online support community.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on June 25, 2014
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